SAN FRANCISCO—Some churches in San Francisco have been openly defying orders despite the surge of coronavirus cases since mid-June. The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office received several complaints about violations of the health order. Such churches have continued to host indoor services, and in one case, even a wedding. Concerned Christians express that their faith may be misrepresented by “selfish” and “self-serving” shepherds.
“They are following their own ego needs. They just don’t care about anyone but themselves,” said Pastor Amos C. Brown of Third Baptist Church in an interview with Kron 4.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported a newly wed couple and eight other attendants of an illegal wedding held at St. Paul’s Church in the North Beach neighborhood tested positive for coronavirus in July.
According to an Instagram post by one attendant, there were about “80 people attending the wedding.” The celebration included a dinner and reception. Invitations were extended to large groups from multiple households despite rapidly rising daily cases since mid-June. This was also against California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order requiring the indefinite closure of all indoor activities.
The state health orders are being followed or even supported by the vast majority of churches. Although the Archdiocese of San Francisco expressed in a formal letter to the city attorney his commitment to work cooperatively with the city by complying with the health orders in effect, “steadfast in protecting the health” of congregants, there are dissenting voices.
CBS SF Bay Area reported one church attendant expressing the sentiment that churches are being discriminated against. “It disturbs me when I hear that the casinos are still open but my church is going to be closed. I hope this changes soon,” said South San Francisco resident Sam Mosunic in an interview posted on the San Francisco CBS Local website at 11:31 AM on August 2, 2020.
Patricia Rhea, a grocery clerk at the Noriega Safeway and regular attendant of St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco, also expressed frustration with the continued operation of casinos, calling government policies “discriminatory.”
A San Francisco priest of the Star of the Sea Church, Father Joseph Illo, in the Richmond neighborhood posted a controversial letter published on July 26, which was described by Kron 4 News as “misinformation” aimed at downplaying the “seriousness of the coronavirus.” His claim is that news reports about COVID are “largely unreal.”
Senior Pastor Brown of Third Baptist Church, which has closed indoor services since the lockdown, commented on Father Joseph Illo’s statement, calling it irresponsible to put others in harm’s way by minimizing the seriousness of the coronavirus.
“Doesn’t speak well of people who claim to be spiritual and religious,” Pastor Amos C. Brown said. “It is more like their operation is a hustle and a self-serving entity.”